Back in the days when we pre-boomers were in school, many of us were delighted when given an assignment that required research. Even if we had the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica at home, which cost our parents a pretty penny, a serious paper called for a trip to the library.
I was introduced to the local library at a young age, but didn’t appreciate what a great tool this book repository was until I became interested in the opposite sex. Throughout high school the library was a good place to meet girls. I could share a study table with them without being too obvious. Sometimes we would work together on a project and talk about elements of the topic before being shushed by the librarian for disturbing the other patrons. When this happened, it gave me the opportunity to ask the girl I was interested in to have a coke at the ice cream shop down the street. In college the same thing happened, only I’d like to think the interaction was a bit more sophisticated. If not, at least the library was larger and more information was available. Those were the days.
As a novelist and writer of magazine articles as well as this blog, I spend a great deal of time doing research. But I never leave my study to get this work done, because it can all be accomplished on the Internet. That’s too bad. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that access to all the information I need is right at my finger tips – more than I could have gathered as the result of several trips to the main library in downtown LA. What I miss is the smell of the book racks. The sounds or lack thereof associated with the main reading room. Searching through the Dewey Decimal System index cards to find the books I needed. And, most of all, I miss the human contact.
Of course I can get the research done faster and more completely through the use of my computer, but I’m not in a big hurry today. I like to breakup my work schedule with some pleasant conversation, so I meet friends for coffee at the book store not far from my home. It’s nice, but nothing rivals those fun days spent at the library when I was young.